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charles garnier

Stair as theatre - part two

In the last stair post I talked about private stairs of a type.  This post continues that same theme but extends it out to the public realm. There are certainly a lot of nightclubs and restaurants that have taken great advantage of a descending stair entry.  Watching someone enter, survey the crowd, and then slowly make their way down is the stuff of high drama.  I worked on a project like that in downtown Boston where we were converting three underground movie theatres into a nightclub.  The entrance consisted of a large, winding stair that progressed downward while also circling the perimeter of the club.  Not built unfortunately so no photos.

Above and below are images of the Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier.  You can see the ornate stair that brings patrons from the street up to their seats with a multitude of little platforms to watch the drama of entrances.  I have been fascinated by the section drawing of the opera since I first saw it because of this dual quality of  "theatre".  You can see from the section below that the area given to entry and the associated promenade is at least as great if not more so than the interior space of the performance hall itself.  The photo above clearly demonstrates that the people walking in are on stage with all the little folks on the stair watching them including even some "opera boxes" of the little projecting balconies.

As in previous posts on the drama of movie stairs, here the association is also direct and intentional.  Clearly people watching is as engaging as any play and the stair is landscape for that drama.

If you have any thoughts or other examples of this kind of explicitly theatrical stair, please send it along.  The next post may step away from this more public realm into the drama of the household stair with a slight detour through English manor houses and their notoriously segregated main and service stairs.